Overcoming the impossible in the dry hills of Kenya

Sometimes, a problem is so formidable that it’s hard ever to imagine a solution for it. This may have been how families felt in Parkishon, Northern Kenya before FH convinced them they could overcome once very essential problem: access to clean water.

Eight hours. That’s how long Parkishon’s women and children used to walk to get water. They would leave before dawn and return after dusk, forming a meandering caravan of donkeys loaded with jerrycans. This day-long affair, which had to be repeated every three days, was life for the people of Parkishon eight months out of the year. (The other four months were the wet season, when water naturally collected in depressions on the ground closer to home.)

During those long walks, danger lurked along the road in the form of bandits and wild animals also desperate for water. In 2009, one school girl was killed on her way to fetch water, and a boy died in a separate incident–both of gunshot wounds.

“Parkishon” means “beginning of a new life.”

It’s a common misconception that new school buildings, new wells and physical infrastructure will bring a community out of poverty. In fact, it is the vision and hope brought by FH staff that can help a community experience new life.

Community leaders in Parkishon told FH staff that their primary need was to have accessible water.

“Initially, the community did not have hope that they could tackle such a huge issue,” said FH field staff member Zipporah Muhoro (above, in yellow). “But with constant training, urging and prodding, they established a Water Users group whose leaders were trained in proposal writing
and fund-management topics.”

FH worked with the community to outline ways of solving the water problem, and the community itself wrote and submitted several proposals which received funding from other humanitarian organizations, including Christian Community Services (CCS).

Before long, two massive water-catchment systems appeared–structures that will be filled temporarily by CCS, until the rainy season arrives in November.

When the rainy season arrives in November, the water catchments are expected to collect enough rainwater to carry all 219 families in Parkishon through the next dry season.

While FH didn’t pay for the construction of these water catchments, the vision and hope provided through FH staff proved invaluable to community leaders in Parkishon. The community now is forming a Water Users Committee to raise revenue from the water and open up more opportunities for government assistance.

Physical improvements already can be seen. The most recent government survey in Parkishon showed malnutrition rates declining thanks to the clean, accessible water.

“When we are sleeping, Guyo [FH staff] wakes us up,” says Ruth Naperian, the treasurer of the Water Users Committee, explaining the value of encouragement received from FH staff.

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